Alex Reno wanted to take this Saturday off from keeping keen eyes on the field for future professional footballers, so backup was brought in to take down this particularly gruesome task. I've also been asked to not do this as well as he does in fear of taking his role permanently. We all need a little job security around here.
Unfortunately, at this time of the year, all the big games have been accounted for at least once and plenty of games have already played out Friday, so we're more keen to zip around the landscape of Saturday and pick out a handful of outstanding talents that Alex may not have gotten to during his Draft Watch previously. It's a veritable potpourri of violence and speed. After all, the season is coming to a close dangerously fast, with just one more week to play for conference championships before shuffling off to a month and change of bowl season. College football is a funny little drunken mayfly like that.
Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end (Oklahoma State)
Emmanuel Ogbah has been a force incarnate for the Cowboys this year, a terrorizing bad moon lingering over the opposing backfield. Although a little rough around the edges compared to other defensive ends in the draft, Ogbah's star has been rising throughout 2015 as Oklahoma State makes a run for a Big 12 title and a potential playoff appearance.
Although the Pokes feature a dominant secondary with Kevin Peterson (a NFL talent in the making himself), Tre Flowers and Jordan Sterns, they've looked to Ogbah all season to create havoc, pressure the passer, stop the run and even drop back to cover in space from time to time. He looks fairly comfortable doing all of it. Going into this Saturday, Ogbah has already surpassed his monstrous sophomore season with 12 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles -- and he still has two games left to play.
In this upcoming draft, he may get looked over among other defensive ends, particularly because beliefs are out that he may still need a little seasoning in learning the position. I think he's ready right now and he's hit every marker that's been asked of him since 2014. He's got the size and the strength to play on Sunday and he'll garner plenty of talk before the combine.
Vernon Hargreaves III, cornerback (Florida)
Alex highlighted Florida State's Jalen Ramsey in a previous Draft Watch, but on the other side Saturday, Vernon Hargreaves will be patrolling the backfield for the Florida Gators. He will be looking to shut down whatever is thrown his way by Sean Maguire, Everett Golson, or whatever hoodoo golem Jimbo Fisher threw together to play quarterback.
Hargreaves, just named as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award, doesn't have the stats that scream off the page this year for a cornerback, but what he does have is a quickness that serves him in returning interceptions for field position; he's returned four interceptions for 152 yards this year. Although he looks comfortable playing man coverage, he also excels at playing off coverage, boasting a mental quickness that lets him read a quarterback's pass and rush in to create havoc. He's also aggressive in run support and open-field tackling, although he's got a habit of diving at the ball carrier at times.
Height has been the scarlet mark against Hargreaves, the cardinal sin of his genetics. He's listed at 5'11" but he certainly looks at least two inches shorter than listed. He hasn't really let his size deter him in jump ball situations but it's easy to see where he'd be overwhelmed trying to cover some of the giants who play on Sunday, like Calvin Johnson.
Pharoh Cooper, wide receiver (South Carolina)
His name is fairly appropriate given that South Carolina, barring another amazing coaching hire, is about to join the Egyptian dynasties in the sands of ruin and desolation.
Cooper's been the shining star on a flailing offense, averaging 14.4 yards per catch on 62 catches. South Carolina has been a mess at quarterback, but they've been able to target him nearly one third of the time reliably. He's very versatile and he's worked well in nearly every role the Gamecocks have asked of him as a receiver, and he's got the quickness and acceleration to excel. However, that means a lot of his production is coming from dump-offs and quick screens, which leads to questions to his full potential. He's got speed, but his ability in running routes is still in question.
Other WRs like Laquon Treadwell and Michael Thomas are ranked ahead of him, but Cooper could find a good home as a mid-second round steal. For some folks at home, he's got a lot in common with Golden Tate.
Jeremy Cash, strong safety (Duke)
It's stupefying that we're talking about Duke having another top draft pick after Laken Tomlinson, but the Blue Devils have been producing NFL talent steadily now thanks to head coach David Cutcliffe. Jeremy Cash could very well be that next product as one of the top strong safety prospects in the nation. The position is one where the Lions may indeed have a pressing need come the draft.
Cash is versatile in a defense that utilizes three safeties at times, and Duke has placed him at nickel cornerback more than a few times. It shows in the stat sheets with 18 tackles for loss, but in his natural position he's still a excellent tackler that works well in both the coverage and stopping the run. Scouts like his instincts and his ability to read plays, although concerns remain that he is too fixated on the ball at times and takes poor angles when attacking the carrier.
Vadal Alexander, offensive lineman (LSU)
Leonard Fournette has been a national darling for the Tigers but there's plenty of credit to hand out to his line in creating the spaces for him to make those runs. Vadal Alexander is an elite talent in blocking for both passing and running and he'll be a talk for any team looking to upgrade their line come draft time. He's versatile enough to play guard or tackle on either side, although he's probably more valuable at tackle right now. Vadal can eliminate linebackers easily and has great awareness to keep the defense honest. He's mobile and can get to the rush quickly, but scouts believe his hands need work to truly be outstanding protection.
Other names to know
Dan Voltz, center (Wisconsin) - The Badgers have been a brutal team up front for years and Dan Voltz has had his hand in calling the coverages necessary to make that happen.
Dan Vitale, superback (Northwestern) - Vitale is a strange but effective weapon used in the Northwestern offense. He's officially listed as "fullback" for draft purposes but I like the title superback a lot more. Vitale's role with the Wildcats is a strange combination between tight end, fullback and halfback, and he has the physicality and athleticism to pull it off. He'll be available in the later rounds due to the uncool classification he'll be given for the draft, but someone might take a flier on him to see what he can do.
Christian McCaffrey, running back (Stanford) - He's not eligible yet but just...watch him against Notre Dame. Do it. Sure it's Stanford football and you probably aren't usually up for it but, in quoting Alex, "a white boy shouldn't be able to move like that."
Noah Spence, outside linebacker (Eastern Kentucky) - Okay, the Rebs aren't playing Saturday, but brush up on him while you can. Spence could be the Division 1 FCS steal of the draft, and he plays linebacker as well as any of the top prospects at the position.